What Can’t a Landlord Do: The Big No-Nos of the Industry

Last Updated: January 26, 2021By

By Nicole Seidner

It wasn’t all that long ago that a landlord went viral after nabbing her tenants’ packages, claiming them as the ‘rent’ that they owed her. Naturally, she backtracked that statement pretty quickly as she realized no one really found the idea as funny as she did. TikTok’s banishment aside, her video is one great big sign that bragging about how ‘petty’ you are as a landlord is a big no-no.  What other warnings have can a landlord overlooked?

Don’t Steal From Your Tenants

This one should be pretty obvious. According to Abbe Awosanya, the landlord who danced for our enjoyment, she wasn’t ‘actually stealing’ and those were her own boxes she was using as props! Good for her if that’s true, but let’s just put it out there. A lot of tenants haven’t paid their rent right now, that much is true, but do not steal from them. Even if its packages left out on the street, messing with mail is still a federal offense and a jury wouldn’t not look well on you if it went to court – theft or evictions court.

Don’t Ask Intrusive Questions

There’s a limit to what can go on in an interview. You can ask if they smoke cigarettes, if they are employed, if they have pets, but prodding too deep can get you into trouble. You can’t ask how often they bring dates home or their sexual identity. You can’t ask if that service dog is really a service dog, or why they would need one. You’re not going to know when’s the last time they had an absolute rager of a party. You can’t ask about their drinking habits or if they like to party – while these things may be what you’d like to ask or are interested in, a lawyer will point out a landlord asking these questions will be quick to find themselves served.

Don’t Use Social Media to Vet Applicants

While the option is enticing, this is an entirely bad idea. A person is not their social media account: just ask the three doctors now infamous for making this mistake as they judged their colleagues ‘professionalism’ based on their online profiles. Taking a few selfies with a glass of wine does not an alcoholic make! The problem with social media is that it is not objective, but a persona that a person cherry-picks to share. There are plenty of people out there with multiple profiles: one that’s “mom-approved,” one that’s professional, and one that’s … other. Who knows which one you’ll find? This doesn’t get into the information you’re not supposed to know, or that’s illegal for you to use in your decision-making process. Social media won’t protect you from seeing that information like our Regulatory Matrix will. 

Don’t Make Assumptions

You know those people who brag that they can tell a person’s entire life story in the first few moments of meeting? Yeah, don’t be them. There is nothing in those moments that go beyond silly assumptions. Oh, they’re in a button down, so they must be a hard worker? That might be their only “nice” shirt cause their day-job requires a uniform. The only thing you can know for fact is that they showed up, and they want to live on the property. Everything else is probably covered by discrimination laws, and that’s an issue you don’t want to take a chance on.

Don’t Drop By Unannounced

There are plenty of landlords who would love to do a drive by on their property, just checking it over to make sure the place isn’t in utter shambles. They might want to come in, using their handy-dandy keys to see how many holes are in the walls, if the kids are stomping on the counter tops or if a cat flap was installed in the porch doorway. This is not advisable. Curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction may have brought it back but satisfaction will not bring you as a landlord back from the breach of privacy laws. There is a contract in place, and you have to give your tenants notice before coming.

This is just the tip of the iceberg!  There’s a mess of things that landlords can’t or shouldn’t do. Spying on the tenants, hounding if the rent is half an hour late, there are some things that damage your reputation and some that can do more damage than that. Take a step back every once in a while and make sure you’re not crossing any invisible lines.

What’s the biggest landlord faux pas a landlord could make?

About the Author

Nicole Seidner is a writer that specializes in creative nonfiction. She focuses in research-based writings with the intent to educate those in the rental housing industry. Her goal is to ensure (while factually correct) her writing can entertain and intrigue readers at the same time.


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